In the end it was almost too perfect.
Totally departing from the ending in John le Carré’s source book, unscrupulous arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) got his comeuppance in the final, enthralling instalment of The Night Manager tonight. But not before nerves were shredded in another glamorous and high-octane piece of television.
Yes, as Roper was driven off by a menacing group of shadowy Cairo gangsters – to a fate we can only barely guess at – Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) and Pine (Tom Hiddleston) enjoyed an altogether more pleasant night together in the Nefertiti Hotel, wrapped in each other’s arms. You can only imagine how much Roper hated the British operative if his mind ever wandered to imagining what they were up to.
His empire seemingly up in smoke, his girlfriend stolen by the younger handsome man, and the Hamid thumbscrews probably taking up the rest of his attention – it wasn’t the best day of Roper’s life.
Leading up to that moment it was never clear-cut what was going to happen, and the tension was unbearable at times.
We opened with Burr (Olivia Colman) getting a grilling from the various corrupt bosses at MI6 (the “River” lot), forcing Burr to grit her teeth (you could almost hear them grind) as the cover-up was, well covered up.
But the main action took place in Cairo, where Pine set about trying to destroy Roper’s deal. He did it pretty effectively, even after Roper had rumbled him, subjecting Jed to Frisky’s tender tortuous embraces and landing Pine with a punch in the solar plexus.
Interestingly it was Roper’s emotional intelligence which finally rumbled Pine. The look that Jed gave Pine in the casino as he was whisking Freddie Hamid away told him all he needed to know about their feelings for each other. And Roper was ready for his betrayer.
But Pine wasn’t to be deterred, making good his plan to blow the whole consignment up and topping it with a final coup-de-grace. The $300m that had been sent to Pine was missing from the account, leading to some rather awkward exchanges with his buyers, Hamid Snr and Omar Barghati.
Roper didn’t exactly handle them with aplomb. “Don’t you dare threaten me,” he bellowed at Hamid. “Who do you think did this? Arab militia. Little brown rats like the rest of you. You will get your money when I am good and ready. Understand?”
(We were afforded an earlier insight into his unreconstructed attitude when he joked to Jed that “Arabs are all thieves”.)
When Roper’s final moment came, when the cuffs were put on him, Burr enjoyed the moment she had longed for – justice for the people Roper’s weapons of mass destruction had killed. She injected the scene with deep emotion -when does Olivia Colman not do emotion? – but the funniest moment belonged to Roper when he poured scorn on the area of London Burr lived in. There was so much delicious public school contempt and wealthy disdain in the way he muttered “Bermondsey” under his breath. It was oddly amusing.
But things took a twist when Hamid arrived and bundled him in the back of his van with his own men keeping menacing watch. His fate was obviously going to be a painful one, but it was partly because Burr steadied Joel’s hand when he suggested intervening to save the arms dealer.
“He deserves it,” she said as Roper was ferried away. She had shown Frisky more compassion earlier in the episode when she waylaid his violent attentions by merely shooting him in the leg.
And Freddie Hamid, the younger son, was short of luck too. The coke-snorting playboy who was Sophie’s lover was drowned in the pool at the hands of Pine. (Was Hamid snr enraged by the death of his son? Or the loss of the $300m? Or both? We may never know.)
In some respects this is a happy liberal fantasy, far removed from Le Carré’s original, more depressing vision, and it will probably antagonise some fans of the book where the bad guys essentially wins the day, and Roper carries on unchecked.
“You have to commit, you have to make a decision,” said Hiddleston’s triumphant (TV) Pine. In the book, Pine and Jed retreated to a quite seclusion, essentially licking their wounds. But here our hero lives to fight another day with his girl probably by his side. Series two anyone?